Friday, September 12, 2014

My Dairy-Free Baby

The minute I stopped breastfeeding and began feeding Aden formula, I noticed he had an allergic reaction. It was obvious given the raised, blotchy hives and redness on his face and chest and by the way he rubbed his tearful eyes. My poor baby! It broke my heart to see him that way. I didn't need a professional diagnosis to realize what was happening, but Aden's pediatrician confirmed my suspicion and recommended we switch to soy formula. Aden is allergic to the protein found in milk, but not found in breast milk or soy. And thankfully, Aden tolerates soy formula just fine and we haven't had any trouble since.

I don't know about everyone else, but the early food stages (ages 6-12 months) are the most challenging for me. Food has to be soft to chew, not stringy (like green beans can be) or have skins (like blueberries or grapes) and easy for baby to pick up, chew and digest without choking. Aden has always preferred feeding himself over eating baby food purees, so I transitioned to baby led weaning far sooner than I ever did with Tory. Some of Tory's favorite foods are yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese (basically, everything dairy!) and given Aden's sensitivity to milk, those foods are a no-go for him. It's difficult coming up with foods they'll both eat. Sometimes I feel like a short-order cook preparing separate meals for everyone.

One morning as I was making a frozen waffle for Tory, I tossed a few bites onto Aden's high chair tray for him to try. Big mistake. Within minutes, my poor baby boy began to cry and broke out in hives all over his face and chest. I dashed to the freezer to read the nutrition label on the back of the Eggo waffle box and sure enough, milk was listed as an ingredient. Gah. Maybe it should have been obvious to me, but I'd never considered it before. I realized in that moment I owe it to my children to be more diligent in reading labels and mindful about what I feed them.

Since that day two months ago, I strictly follow the "three day rule" when introducing new foods to Aden. I know, I know ... it's suppose to be the rule when introducing new foods to babies anyway, but with Tory it never seemed to matter. Now it feels like I feed Aden the same foods over and over again, but it's necessary to see if he develops a reaction. And honestly, I don't think he really cares. Avocado was one food I'd fed Aden once or twice before without issue, and suddenly at one meal he developed a rash all over.

I keep a running list of safe foods Aden can eat taped to the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets, so anyone (family members, babysitters, etc.) have a guideline to go by should there ever be a meal time I'm not there to feed him. I also included foods Aden cannot have (such as the kid-favorite Goldfish crackers, which shamefully took me a minute to realize had cheese as an ingredient).

Slowly, I'm developing a repertoire of dairy-free foods and recipes safe for Aden to eat. This week, I made healthy carrot apple muffins for Tory and Aden and they were surprisingly moist and delicious. Both kids gobbled them up and they were simple to make, too. I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of dairy-free substitutes on the market including Earth Balance butter and mayonnaise. Any other dairy-free foods or recipes out there I should try? This mama is all ears.

Mmmm ... carrot apple muffins

My new job of reading labels definitely has me thinking about the foods I feed my family. For one, it's crazy how many foods have dairy in them. (McDonalds French fries! Spaghetti-O's!) I worked in marketing for a food-service company prior to my gig as a stay-at-home-mom, so I wasn't completely naive in the importance of nutrition labeling, but I really took a blind eye to it all. Some people need to know this information, but not me. Not anymore. Now I'm *trying* to transition to more scratch-based cooking and clean eating, but it's tough! Though, it's also staggering to realize how terrible the processed foods I'm feeding my family are, and it's silly to go to all the effort of researching recipes and preparing food for Aden only to eat junk myself. Immediately I've noticed how planning ahead has helped in eating healthier. I struggle to find something for Aden to eat on the fly, so lately I've been steaming and roasting vegetables at the beginning of the week so I can quickly re-heat something for him to eat at meal times. I'm also back on the meal planning bandwagon for family breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I know from experience that if I can reference a meal plan, I eat and cook healthier. It's the 5 o'clock scramble that gets me in trouble.

I'm crossing all my fingers and toes my sensitive boy grows out of this need to eat dairy-free, but in the meantime perhaps it'll steer our entire family into a healthier direction and that can't be such a bad thing.


  1. That has to be so hard to watch every label. It's one thing to do it for ourselves for calorie or allergy purposes, but to do it for our kiddos takes extra diligence.
    I have a degree in Animal Science from the University of MN. I took a lot of food classes and learned entirely too much about what is in our foods. I drastically changed the way I ate.
    I started using Arbonne products about seven months ago, and in the meantime I have been researching what is in our cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, etc. It is really amazing what the United States allows in those types of things. There are a ton of things like paraben, formaldehyde, animal products and by-products, mineral oil & castor oil allowed in our products that are banned in other countries, including Canada. Arbonne products are formulated by European standards- much higher standards than in the US. Anyway, once I started using "good" products my normally 'temperamental' skin has been amazing. AND they have baby products. The body wash, lotion and diaper rash cream are AMAZING! What do you use on your children currently? So. Since you were being diligent about labels and such I thought I'd throw another idea at you. :)

  2. That must be so hard! But it sounds like you have a good perspective on it in that it is helping the whole family eat a little better! I totally wouldn't have thoght about the waffles either..

  3. Such an extra worry nobody wants! That is such a bummer, I hope it disappears with age. I've definitely seen some great substitutes for dairy out there, but I've never had to use them soooo no real suggestions here.

  4. Hope this is getting easier! I became extra hyper aware of ingredients during my U job because of all those allergic kids and the thought that my misstep might lead to harm was scary! (Now if only the other managers had felt the same pressure...)

    Anyway, I will keep my fingers crossed that these allergies all go away in the coming months! Making stuff from scratch gets easier over time - promise! You adjust to the new normal ways of shopping and cooking. And then your mom and MIL will look at you like a nutter when you do things like make breadcrumbs from scratch ("You know you can buy those, right?") :)

    1. Thanks, Laura! You're right; it is getting easier to cook from scratch and read labels. I wish I could continue to take the pre-made waffles/mac and cheese/etc. short-cuts but it's probably not foods my little boy should be eating anyway,.

    2. Have you been to one of the co-ops since Aden started solids? You might find a ton more foods that are safe for him to eat but still convenient/minimal prep. And then if you find something you like, you can often buy it in bulk of Amazon (Andi will love that! ha). And maybe try searching for "nut-free vegan" recipes since those will be dairy and egg free. I'm just assuming you are going to be slow on offering nuts but if he tolerates those then that would make life easier, of course!

      Last - do you own a waffle maker? I got one a few years ago and I have been surprised how often I use it. Since Tory is a fan of waffles, you might be able to make a big batch of Tory-approved/Aden safe waffles on the weekend (that might even sneak in things like sweet potatoes or whatever) to heat up on weekdays (we do that). I've been meaning to try some of those potato "waffle" recipes I have seen around (basically hashbrowns). That might be another safe idea that the kids would be willing to go for?

      Good luck and you are doing great - it's not easy at all for parents to try to feed their kids safely and well.

    3. One more thought that just came to me - have you tried tofu as a finger food? Kind of weird but the texture is good for babies and can still be a finger food. You could get some organic firm tofu that comes in a block and then cut it into squares. When he gets a little older you can then marinate the tofu in watered-down soy sauce or other liquids to give it more flavor. I do a dry frying of tofu and make it triangle shapes ( and then marinate and my kids usually like it. Until the day they hate it. But then they like it again the next time. CHILDREN, man.

    4. Such great ideas! Thank you, Laura! I like the idea of doing homemade waffles and freezing - I've done that with pancakes before for Tory so it would definitely work to make some both could eat and enjoy. I'll try the tofu, too. I'm always scared of buying it because I'm not sure what to DO with it (ha!) but your suggestions give me some good ideas. Thanks again! You're the best!